Poetry: In the Stacks

Circa 1890

Some things I’ve always known,
like where the Library was,
especially the one with a funny name,
the Osterhout Free Library,
in my hometown, which to me
was and is The Library.

Looking like the Presbyterian church
it first was in 1849,
with (now gone) ivy covered walls,
hinting of mysteries, adventures,
and the wisdom within;
a mile to walk was nothing
for a keen young lad to go
for a book or two.

Through church doors that open
into the vast, once Calvinistic,
nave with colorless unstained leaded glass,
now with desks and shelves filled
with books and things,
one finds it all.
Hush! Whisper please.
People are reading.

Off to the left dim dark stacks
beckoned like a secret
church transept and silent choir loft.

The true spirits of the library’s haunted
dark and dingy, yet welcoming,
old book-scented stacks, silent
dust and maybe mischief,
with muffled giggles of children
or lovers, each playing with
resident hushing ghosts.

Long ago—a place of prayer,
now a sanctuary
of human wisdom and happiness.

***

Comb the dark stacks of old libraries looking both ways for dusty old history.
Mind the gaps and giggles of the ghosts.


Note: Because this was my first community library during my formative years, it was what I expected all others to look like. Not a bad standard.

Click the image to link to library information.

 

Poetry: Makin’ My Bed

Retired me. Who cares?
Nothing left to lose.
But I make my bed
almost every day, if I so choose.
That means something,
but I have no idea what or why.

On most days, that’s a lie cuz,
for five decades,
Yolonda did
but when she don’t,
I do
if I can get there
first and I wonder why.

I look at the sheets, covers, and depending
on the time of year, the top bed spread
searching for signs of how I slept that night.
I mean. Who cares? Right?

The pillow goes to the floor, I press a button
to flatten the mat before the sheet is pulled
to the tight top where
it is — only when made.
Like a surgeon
I begin the art
of vanishing lumps and wrinkles.

The Air Force gave me Army lessons
on how to make my bed,
more like a bunk or cot.

Rudely rousted at reveille with
bright lights and loud
everything to fall out into
the dark of early morning
in a few minutes for roll call.

At 18, mom’s boy had to be
all bright and spiffy,
a sharp troop at Dress right,
DRESS, attentive eyes FRONT.
A bed made so tight
two-bits bounced a foot
or gigged in for the weekend,
shining brogans, boots, buttons, and brass.
Our racks trashed.

Who cares? Right? I did then.
I look at my bed now,
no olive drab green wool blanket,
tightly tucked with
no fake pillow
too small for a human head,
no quarter to bounce.

Retired but bed made.
No gigs. Weekends free, still. A made
bed is work of art, a memory,
and if nothing else,
it’s ready for me at the end of this day.

Play Retreat first, then Taps, sleep well,
final Reveille sounds early.

***

Both ways begin with dreams at night,
in the morning it’s high and tight.
Look both ways.
Mind the gaps and the gigs. FALL OUT!


Gig is military slang for demerit. Gigged in means restricted to barracks due to excessive demerits. “Gig ‘em, Aggies!” is not the same gig.

Poetry: Fortuna Redux (road trip home)

I woke about eight to hit the road early.
First morning routines of granola and coffee,
then chores of pack and load, load some more.
We drove to the gate, I opened and closed,
to keep the horses corralled inside fences.
Drove to the interstate, soon in traffic—
Sweetwater bound.

Missed the turn at Sweetwater, drove on to
Abilene for brunch and a pit stop, then headed for
secondary roads through towns with cool names
like Rising Star (3 miles north of Falling Star Ranch),
somebody loves irony as much as me,
there’s Cross Plains, a Nix, Comanche
(like the Indian tribe), Bangs, and Indian Creek,
many gaps; Buffalo Gap, Indian Gap, Salt Gap,
and Mercer’s Gap plus more; also a Cross Cut and
a town named Cut and Shoot is out there somewhere,
and a Burnet not like the Carol, but cuz it’s Texas
pronounced Burn-it, as they say ‘learn it, dern it’.

We drove through Zepher, a nice town name, too small for me,
and Lampasas; saw signs for Stink Creek and Noodle Mound Road.
I was headed for Round Rock, named for a round rock
in Bushy Creek, there’s a Woman Hollering
Creek somewhere near San Antonio.

We saw ranches and cows, pump jacks and
by the hundreds those big white wind generators
for electricity. We saw goats and their
donkey protectors. Why do small towns
or family-named cemeteries have directional
signs along the road? Don’t the people know
where to go? For genealogists I supposed.

The drive was uneventful except for the on and off,
never the same, gentle rain which kept me changing the
intermittent windshield wiper setting.

Yolonda was chief music DJ.
She did some gettin’ down with BTO,
and even played Abba a while. All in all,
it was a good trip.

It’s nice to be home.
Fortuna Redux one more time.

Look both ways, add front back and sideways while driving.
Enjoy the music with the beat of wipers, but mind the gaps,
Buffalo, Indian, or Salt.

**Other Texas towns with interesting names are Loco, Bug Tussle, Nimrod, Uncertain, North Zulch, Ding Dong, and Nameless. There are also an Old Dime Box and a New Dime Box, and while PA has Intercourse, Texas has a Climax. Click here for more Texasisms.

Poetry: Sammi’s Weekender, ‘longevity’


I Hear You Died

Letting go of one you know,
or knew, reminders of a finite
life, is not easy as we
reminisce of times when
longevity was forever.

Another man down, life
brought to end before ending,
not here to listen to, no one
hears me talk about you.

When I heard you had died
My mind began to trip and bounce
over thoughts and memories
of our times past,
when we both were alive.

You taught me well.


When faced with loss, look both ways,
your past with them, your future alone.
Mind the gaps for hints of eternity.

Poetry: On Being a Veteran

I chose to go into the Air Force,
twice,
and to stay long enough
to eventually be told,
“your service is no longer required.”
So, with that, I promptly retired.

I joined up. Some call it served.
I’ve never been thanked for joining,
only for service,
a word with twenty meanings
as a noun,
five as a verb, and five more
as an adjective, where I fit in;
but not in the three more legal terms
nor most of the twelve listed
as kids definitions.

My service included my promise
to kill millions of them
should they undertake
to kill millions of us, as we
would both destroy more than
half the planet in the process
of a world-wide Armageddon.

My service was learning
how to do that and fully
intending to do exactly that!

It was my sworn duty to protect
and defend the Constitution, and,
as I understand it, still is because
I have not been released from
that oath, and, technically,
I’m still on the payroll.

I struggle even today with
being anti-war, but if
there is one,
I’d rather not miss it.
If a deed needs to be
done to protect and defend,
and if I’m still able, let me
stand in line to join up again,
with others, willing to kill
and maybe to die for
some vague idea which
so few of us seem
to correctly understand.

Don’t thank me
for my service,
or for your freedom,
or for any sacrifice
by my family or me.

Thank the Constitution
for that. Or, better yet,
if you can do for your
country, which is the idea,
join up in a way
that suits your person
and your conscience.

As I watch the guards, I notice they march both ways.
There are no gaps.

Poetry: The Young Turks: Wisdom of Frogs and Toads

When I ran with the dogs,
with the whippets and hounds, but mostly
with many young mongrels,

Confident advice flowed with barking
ignorance as Young Turk wisdom without
benefit of time or trial.

All things were defined by toads little wiser
or experienced than were we pups, with
foibles and foolishness all their own.

Success and failure were measured by the ignorance
of prediction rather than outcome, by dreams
over reality, by desires above experience.

Dead war dog stories try telling us
that neither happiness nor success
bother to dress up in frogskins.

Shine your light when you look both ways.
Mind and mine deeply gaps of the past
filled with learned experience.

Poetry: Cut Throat

After being an Air Force officer for several years,
after being an enlisted dude for four years, and after
the oddly trainee controlled officer
training school, then flight training,
survival training, combat crew training
and many other experiences
that I have long since forgotten,

I was assigned to the Training Command
as a flight training instructor and commander.

An old instructor of mine was still there,
but he had been away to USC
to get his PhD.

He described command
flight training as a thousand officers
standing knee-deep in chicken shit,
stabbing each other in the back.

I found that description to be
remarkably accurate.

Look both ways in competitive careers.
Mind the gaps and where you step – and check six!
(motherfucker)